Tuesday, August 28, 2012

because I still believe what I believe.... part 1

I'm back... again. It has been a while, life has ben busy (lame excuse I know, also because life is about to become exponentially more hectic). This post is one I've been mulling over and thinking about for a while, then it was kicked into motion by our recent (wonderful, relaxing, fun, amazing) vacation to California. So fair warning for those who want to turn back now, this is a blog post about religion, so be prepared for views that may not be fully aligned with your own. My goal is to portray my experience, and is in no way meant to offend anyone. So proceed and read at your own risk.

Our vacation had been planned a year in advance. My mom and her best friend made all the reservations and my sister and her family, and me and my family, had a year to prepare and to make it all work with various schedules and such. For 5 days we stole away to the beautiful Santa Cruz mountains (to be more specific, the town of Felton), surrounded by truly inspiring redwood trees, we stayed at Mt.Hermon. Mt.Hermon is a christian family camp. As a youth for 3 years I attended its high school branch, Ponderosa for a week long summer camp. I knew (and told my husband ahead of time) what would be our daily routine when we arrived. In the morning there was a chapel session (akin to a devotional) that included announcements for the day, sometimes a skit relating to the week's theme, praise and worship music, and a speaker. A short break then several workshops were offered. The afternoon was left up to us campers, and filled with much fun and relaxation. The evenings had a chapel session as well (almost the same as the morning but with a different speaker) and then activities available afterwards. I knew Daniel would probably be bored with the chapel sessions (he did not want me to interpret for him, so I honored his request), but other than that I had no qualms with our daily routine. The first night we arrived, there was a fun and yummy barbecue for all the families to enjoy together, information was given to everyone to let them know of the activities and workshops for the week. One workshop being offered was about Mitt Romney and Mormonism, I was interested in going and seeing what they had to say. My mom commented, "they probably are not going to say nice things", I responded "well, then maybe I can educate them". What followed was my own personal enlightenment.

The workshop was a three part series, over three days a man (who grew up in the LDS church and left in his teen years who still lives in Utah and his the founder of "Standing United Ministry") taught and lectured about the history of mormonism, what they believe ( and consequently how it is doctrinally 'wrong' as it is not a sect of christianity) and how to bridge the divide and talk with them (and convert them). Over the course of three days, I sat and listened with my mom, my sister, my brother-in-law and family friends (all of whom are evangelical christians). I will be honest, I felt out of place, I felt like a black sheep. For the most part, everything that man said was true, some of it may have been presented in a skewed light, but it was true none-the-less. My emotions ran the gamut, I was angry, confused, and defensive. I felt vulnerable and unsure.  He said things about the LDS church and Joseph Smith I had never heard (most  of which was entirely unflattering), he said things I did know, but when spoken aloud to a room full of skeptical evangelicals sounded awful. The man threw our names and dates so fast that it was hard to follow. He name dropped the boost his credibility, evangelical theologians and LDS general authorities alike. I will admit, the time he has spent in the company of so many general authorities of the church, makes me wish I could do the same. With the connections he had, it was obvious that he was at the forefront of this discussion. Day one ended with admonition to have this discussion about religion with love and openness, without defensiveness and hate. Some of the things and way he said things did not sit right with me, and I was not entirely sure why.

As the first workshop ended and I was confused and unsure of what to do. Afterwards the man had a table set up with pamphlets and books and dvds pertaining to the subject (mainly, how doctrinally mormons are not christians, and the success his ministry was having in Utah spreading the evangelical word) I bought a pamphlet that was titled "Are mormons Christians?". My immediate answer, yes! Of course we are! We believe in Christ, we are saved by Christ, we talk of Christ, the cornerstone of the LDS church is Christ! That night as everyone else was asleep I read the pamphlet. What I was faced with were the the doctrinal differences that supported the claim that we are not christians, and a lot of big words to explain and support that fact. I do not claim the be a scholar of any kind, least of all of religion, but I feel as thought I am fairly intelligent and well versed. It may have been that I was fighting off sleep and midnight had come and gone, but the words and terms the author used were way over my head, and I struggled to understand what I read. What I did understand was this: 1.) Mormons are not Christians because they believe that God and Jesus Christ are two separate beings with bodies, 2.) Mormons are not Christians because they do not believe that we are saved by grace alone, 3.) Mormons are not Christians because they believe they can become like God.

Once again I will state, I do not know everything LDS doctrine, but I do know some things and those statements hit me. Maybe I am just very naive, but do those things mean we do not follow Christ? Or Is the definition of Christian something that alludes me? The second reason mentioned was something I do not even believe to be true. However at the end of that day, and after reading that pamphlet I was entirely exhausted, confused and bewildered, not to mention all the questions swirling around in my mind. But I did still know that the Church was true, and I did still believe what I believed, but now I was confronted with the why and how, and that was something I would find the following 2 days.

To continue to blog would be entirely too long winded, so join me back here for part 2 for a date yet to be determined.


  1. I am excited to hear about the rest of your thoughts on this experience. The debate about whether Mormons are Christians really stems from a difference in semantics. Mormons define "Christian" as someone who believe in Christ and strives to follow His teachings. Many other Christian sects believe that the definition of Christianity stems from the Nicene Creed, some tenets of which Mormons reject, the main one being the Trinity. So really the two groups are talking about different things, but using the same term.

    I think it is important for both sides to try to understand the other. As Mormons, our doctrine centers on Christ, so of course we are not comfortable with being drawn outside the circle of the whole of Christianity. But some of our key doctrines are in contrast to what many protestant Christian religions regard as some of their core beliefs, so I can understand why they are not comfortable with us trying to be part of their circle.

  2. When they say that we don't believe we are saved on grace alone, it means that....we think that God expects us to try to be good.
    Yes, we believe in grace. We believe that Jesus died for us and only through him can we be saved.
    But we also believe that we have to endure to the end. We have to repent. More of us is required than just saying, "Yeah, I believe that Jesus died for my sins."

    The whole "Mormon/Christian" argument to me is silly. I know that I believe in Jesus Christ and that He died for me. I don't need other people to agree that I believe that. There isn't a person on the earth who can take away how Christian I am.